After incidents in Jordan, UAE and Egypt: Is violence against women on the rise?

Special Nayera Ashraf (L), a 21-year-old arts student, was stabbed to death in Egypt; Nursing student Iman Ersheid, 18, was shot to death in Jordan. (Reuters)
Nayera Ashraf (L), a 21-year-old arts student, was stabbed to death in Egypt; Nursing student Iman Ersheid, 18, was shot to death in Jordan. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 June 2022

After incidents in Jordan, UAE and Egypt: Is violence against women on the rise?

After incidents in Jordan, UAE and Egypt: Is violence against women on the rise?
  • Incidents in three different Arab countries in the space of a week show urgency of treating ‘femicide’ as a global issue 
  • Victims of gender-based violence rarely report crimes against them or seek help, and perpetrators are rarely punished

JEDDAH: Last week, Nayera Ashraf, a student at Mansoura University in Egypt, was beaten and stabbed in broad daylight as bystanders looked on in horror. She died later that day. The attacker was restrained and arrested. His motive for such a dreadful crime? The refusal of a marriage proposal.

Alexis Gabe, 24, went missing in January this year. It is thought that she was murdered by an ex-boyfriend in Antioch, California. In June, Vanessa Virgioni, 29, was murdered in her home in Brampton, Canada. In October 2018, 46-year-old Gayle Potter died after she was hit by a car in the driveway of her home in Traralgon, Victoria, Australia. Iman Ersheid, 18, was gunned down this month on a university campus in Amman, Jordan.

Such stories of attacks on women by former partners or men they have rejected are too common for comfort. A disappearance in Breitungen, Germany; a stabbing in Delhi, India; another in Sharjah in the UAE; a shooting in the US state of Oklahoma; a death by drowning in Townsville, Australia. In some cases, the victims are discovered immediately, in others it can take years. The remains of some are never found.

It is difficult to determine precisely how many women are attacked because they rejected the advances of a man. The UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women, categorizes such killings as “femicide,” a term used to describe the murder of women, usually by men. A common denominator in many cases is that the woman was the object of unrequited affection from a partner, former partner, or a man whose advances were rebuked.

The Arab world was rocked by reports of three murders of women in this past week alone. Ashraf’s killer claimed that his victim “used me to achieve things and when she did, she dumped me.”

During a court hearing, he told prosecutors: “I also wanted to kill her, if I had the chance” because she had refused his romantic advances and rejected a marriage proposal.




Iman Ersheid’s killer committed suicide as police urged him to surrender. (Videograb)

In Jordan, authorities tracked down Ersheid’s killer to a town north of Zarqa. As they urged him to surrender, he fatally shot himself. The case in Sharjah involved a husband who stabbed his wife 16 times over a dispute. CCTV footage from a parking lot at the woman’s residence showed the killer attacking the woman in her car. He was later found on a beach and arrested.

But such cases are hardly unique to countries such as Egypt, Jordan or the UAE, or to the wider Middle East. Yet some media outlets, such as Monte Carlo Doualiya, formerly known as RMC Moyen-Orient, a French public radio service, have wrongly described them as a uniquely “Arab problem.”

Ibrahim Al-Zibin, a professor of sociology at Imam Mohammed ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, told Arab News that it is a global problem that is not specific to any single region or society. Studies have shown gender-based crimes, especially those against women, are more common in conservative and lower-income communities, he added.

“Violence against women disproportionately affects low and lower-middle-income countries and regions,” he said. “That’s not to say that violence doesn’t occur in other social classes but financially burdened individuals are most likely to be driven towards violence of any kind, and there’s an associated mental-health issue when it comes to committing a murder.”

In what UN Women describes as the “shadow pandemic,” studies have shown that rates of violence against women have increased in recent decades, and that there was a significant rise in cases of domestic violence following the start of COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

UN Women reports that an estimated 736 million women worldwide, which is 30 percent of all women age 15 or older, have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner, sexual violence by a non-partner, or both, at least once in their lives.

Many cases of gender-based violence go unreported, with less than 40 percent of women reporting such crimes or seeking help of any sort, UN Women said in 2021. Assaults and murders considered “crimes of passion,” or as a result of rejection, often make the news as a result of initial citizen reports on social media that attract the attention of authorities.

Social media offers unprecedented opportunities to raise awareness about violence against women and girls, which in many instances historically has gone unpunished. However, advances in technology have made online reporting more accessible to the average person.




Nayera Ashraf, a student at Mansoura University in Egypt, was beaten and stabbed in broad daylight. (Supplied)

Calculating exact figures for crimes of femicide can be challenging and so accurate counts or reliable estimates for the global prevalence of its various forms are difficult to come by. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that 47,000 women and girls worldwide were killed by an intimate partner or family member in 2020.

But attempts to understand the psyche and motives of the men who carry out such crimes raise a number of questions. Are those who kill women just “ordinary people” who suddenly and unexpectedly fly into murderous rages, or are the killings premeditated and planned?

“There is an underlying cause that drives one to premeditated murder; it’s not spontaneous,” said Al-Zibin. Each murder has unique characteristics, he added; in many instances, killers believe they have found the right circumstances to act but, in reality, a mental illness might be driving their actions.

“Violence does not always, or immediately, lead a woman to her death but the consequences of these acts are equally debilitating; the physical, psychological and social effects of violence vary and most murderers will find a way to use that to their advantage,” he added.

“Triggers vary in nature. In some cases they are non-existent but to a criminal, it’s real. The threat of violence manifests itself in various ways in women's lives. Retribution for rejection is a common enough threat.”

Social taboos and shame can lead women to tolerate and even accept as unavoidable aggression by a male, a situation Al-Zibin said can be a recipe for disaster, and so greater social awareness of the issue is needed to change attitudes.




Many cases of gender-based violence go unreported to police. (Supplied)

“Women, get used to the idea that they have to prepare themselves, that they have to respond ‘appropriately’ to men’s advances,” he said. “But in truth, women need to be more aware of a man’s aggressive behavior — no matter the relationship — and protect themselves through reporting it to a family member or law enforcement, which is the best option. It’s one way of fixing the problem.

“There’s no shame in a woman falling victim to an abusive partner, a drug user, a stalker or someone who holds a grudge against her. It’s not something to be ashamed of; the taboo needs to be ignored. There are laws to protect women but more needs to be done to fix this global issue, starting with local governments and authorities.”

Al-Zibin believes that if a woman attempts to deal with a man’s aggressive behavior on her own by defending herself, it can lead to an escalation in the harassment, which might ultimately lead to murder. Moreover, he said, protective measures need to be put in place to protect women from individuals who suffer from mental health issues.

No matter how strong or confident she might be, Al-Zibin said, the actions of a woman who tries to protect herself can be misinterpreted by the individual who is pursuing her and fuel their spite or hate.

“Involuntary manslaughter is rare in crimes (involving) rejection; they’re likely to be very detailed and, more often than not, the criminal succeeds.”


Egyptian, Canadian ministers discuss cooperation

Egyptian, Canadian ministers discuss cooperation
Updated 13 sec ago

Egyptian, Canadian ministers discuss cooperation

Egyptian, Canadian ministers discuss cooperation
  • Sajjan said: “I was impressed by the Egyptian vision of empowering women.”

CAIRO: Nevin Al-Kabbaj, Egypt’s minister of social solidarity, met with Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s minister of international development, to discuss cooperation in various fields.
Al-Kabbaj reviewed her ministry’s programs and activities, including those focusing on the rights of women and the disabled.
Sajjan said: “I was impressed by the Egyptian vision of empowering women.”
Al-Kabbaj expressed her appreciation for the efforts of the Canadian Embassy and the Canadian Development Agency to support development in Egypt and her ministry’s economic-empowerment projects.


Egypt sends aid to flood-hit Sudan

Egypt sends aid to flood-hit Sudan
Updated 18 August 2022

Egypt sends aid to flood-hit Sudan

Egypt sends aid to flood-hit Sudan
  • Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed or damaged by torrential rains and floods, according to the Sudanese Civil Defense

CAIRO: Egypt has sent five military transport planes loaded with tons of relief aid to Sudan, where floods have killed 77 people and injured more than 30.

A spokesman for Egypt’s military said the aid comes “in the framework of Egypt’s support and solidarity with the brotherly Sudanese people.”

The aid includes tents, blankets, foodstuffs, medicines and medical supplies provided by the defense and health ministries.

Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed or damaged by torrential rains and floods, according to the Sudanese Civil Defense.

Heavy rains usually fall in Sudan between May and September, a period when the country experiences flash floods that damage housing, infrastructure and crops.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 38,000 people across Sudan have been affected by rains and floods since the start of this season.


Morocco: 13 migrants sent to prison for Spain crossing bid

Morocco: 13 migrants sent to prison for Spain crossing bid
Updated 18 August 2022

Morocco: 13 migrants sent to prison for Spain crossing bid

Morocco: 13 migrants sent to prison for Spain crossing bid
  • At least 23 died that day in what Moroccan authorities called a stampede
  • The Moroccan Association for Human Rights described the ruling as a “very harsh verdict”

RABAT, Morocco: A Moroccan court has sentenced 13 migrants, mostly from Sudan, to 2 and a half years in prison over a mass attempt to scale the border fence separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla.
The decision Wednesday in the northern Moroccan city of Nador was the latest — and toughest — ruling handed down after dozens of people were arrested for the June 24 crossing attempt. At least 23 died that day in what Moroccan authorities called a stampede, as hundreds of people stormed the fence in a desperate bid to reach Europe.
The Moroccan Association for Human Rights described Wednesday’s ruling as a “very harsh verdict which shows how the judiciary was mobilized in the service of migration policies at the expense of asylum-seeking migrants.”
The 13 were convicted of various charges including illegal entry into Moroccan territory, violence against public officials, armed gathering, disobedience and joining a gang to organize and facilitate clandestine immigration abroad and arson. The court also ordered each of the defendants to pay 1,000 dirham (nearly $100).
Most of the 13 were from Sudan, and others were from Chad and South Sudan, according to activists who followed the case.
Last month, another Nador court sentenced 33 people to 11 months in prison over the June 24 crossing attempt. That court also sentenced 14 people earlier this month to eight months in prison in the same case.


Israeli forces kill Palestinian in West Bank clashes, medics say

Israeli forces kill Palestinian in West Bank clashes, medics say
Updated 18 August 2022

Israeli forces kill Palestinian in West Bank clashes, medics say

Israeli forces kill Palestinian in West Bank clashes, medics say
  • Witnesses said the clashes erupted when Israeli forces arrived to guard Jewish worshipers visiting Joseph’s Tomb
  • Palestine Red Crescent: Four Palestinians were shot and one of them was killed

JERUSALEM: Israeli forces killed a Palestinian in predawn clashes in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus on Thursday, Palestinian medics said. The Israeli army said he was armed and shooting at soldiers, something the Palestinians denied.
Witnesses said the clashes erupted when Israeli forces arrived to guard Jewish worshipers visiting Joseph’s Tomb, a Jewish shrine that has been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Four Palestinians were shot and one of them, an 18-year-old, was killed, the Palestine Red Crescent said. At least 30 Palestinians were wounded in all.
Later in the day, in a separate development, Israeli security forces raided seven non-governmental organizations in the West Bank, confiscating computers and equipment before sealing off the entrances, Palestinian witnesses and officials said.
This followed a decision by Israel to designate the groups as terrorist organizations, accusing them of funneling donor aid to Palestinian militants, a move that has drawn criticism from the United Nations and human rights watchdogs. The designation was ratified on Wednesday.
Nine European Union states have said they would continue working with the groups, citing a lack of evidence for the Israeli accusation.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz reiterated Israel’s position that the organizations had operated undercover to serve the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which has carried out deadly attacks on Israelis and is on US and EU terrorism blacklists.
“They also assist in raising funds for the terrorist organization via a variety of methods that include forgery and fraud,” Gantz said.
Hussein Al-Sheikh, a senior official in the Palestinian Authority, said on Twitter that the “storming of civil work institutions ... is a dangerous escalation and is an attempt to silence the voice of truth and justice.”
“We will appeal to all official international bodies and human rights institutions to intervene immediately to condemn this occupier behavior and place pressure on them to reopen the institutions and to be able to exercise their activities freely,” Sheikh said.


Iranian activists stand with woman jailed over hijab rule in viral video 

Iranian activists stand with woman jailed over hijab rule in viral video 
A few days after the video was shared, Rashno disappeared. (Social Media)
Updated 18 August 2022

Iranian activists stand with woman jailed over hijab rule in viral video 

Iranian activists stand with woman jailed over hijab rule in viral video 
  • The video expresses their solidarity to Sepideh Rashno, the 28-year-old Iranian writer and artist who was arrested for refusing to wear a headscarf

A video posted online by a group of Iranian female activists supporting a woman, who was arrested for violating Iran’s mandatory hijab rule, has gone viral days after she was seen confessing to the crime allegedly under duress, Radio Farda reported on Wednesday. 

Prominent Iranian activist Masih Alinejad shared a video online on Aug. 16, in which she and other female activists recited a poem entitled ‘The Confession’ by an anonymous poet. 

 

The poem expresses their solidarity to Sepideh Rashno, the 28-year-old Iranian writer and artist who was arrested on June 15 after a video of her arguing with another woman over her refusal to wear a headscarf was posted online. 

Mooniter, the pseudonym of one of the female activists who participated in the video to support Rashno, said the poem was aimed at “raising the voices of women like Sepideh” and “women and people who have been taken hostage in Iran,” according to Radio Farda. 

Rashno was riding a bus in Tehran without a hijab when a stranger took a video of her and threatened to send it to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Radio Farda reported.  

A few days after the video was shared, Rashno disappeared. Iranian state television then aired a clip of Rashno’s “confession” on July 30 where she appeared to be in a poor physical state, the report added.

The 28-year-old had allegedly been beaten prior to appearing on TV and was later hospitalized immediately after confessing to breaking the hijab law, according to reports.